Roots

A few days ago, one of my favorite musicians, Lecrae, made a post on his Instagram account announcing that he was going to reread Frederick Douglass’ 2nd autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom. The kick was that he was also going to give away iPad Airs to those who would read it, write a 4-page summary and top off the paper with a concluding paragraph of how the book had changed you. At first, I thought this was another neat idea of his. Then, it struck me; this could be a good reintroduction to American history for me.

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Reintroduction? Yes. To be transparent, I can’t recall very much regarding America’s past. I call myself American, but I’m quite ashamed when it comes to knowing much about my native country. I remember that there were 13 colonies at one point, people had slaves in the south, a few wars happened in the 1900s, and that about sums it up. Yes, I am conscious that July 4th, 1776 was our Day of Independence, but nothing much around that day comes to mind. All this history, it seems, is slipping by farther and farther into the past, and I can’t recollect much of it. I did study it when I was in school, but it hasn’t stuck for reasons that come off to me as only excuses. Therefore, they’re not worthy of being expressed.

Several evocations have come up now and then recently that again bring this truth to the forefront of my mind. I’m currently reading a book entitled Faith of our Fathers, which is about how Chinese and Biblical histories are connected. The quote at the beginning of chapter 1 is from G.K. Chesterton. He says, “The most dangerous people are those who have been cut off from their cultural roots.” Little did I know that this week, I would interview a national friend and unearth his opinion on when he thinks would be a good time for a Chinese student to move to the US. Mind you, I was already thinking the earlier the better, but he went on to share how upper elementary would be more advantageous. What? Why? Because then the child wouldn’t lose as much Chinese culture, or rootedness, compared to if he/she would move as early as kindergarten. Whoa, didn’t consider that. [Insert Shock]

I was once more reminded about this tonight when I struck up a conversation with a Chinese man on the bus ride home. I asked him a couple questions in Chinese and then gave him the chance to continue the conversation if he so desired. Well, he did wish to talk, but his first inquiry was none other then the nationality norm. I informed him that I am American. Then he checked me out from head to toe… twice. My next thought was Great, so this doesn’t just creepily happen to my wife; I’m a part of the club too. Following this, I imagined him moving on to Obama, clean air, or the subject nobody asks about… American history.

Indeed, not a single person has asked about it since I’ve been here. What I do know is that many commoners seem to recall their own history. It’s safe to say that some of it has become a little fabricated the more it has gotten thrown around. As the Chinese proverb goes, “Say something a thousand times, and it will become true.” Funny thing is… some of what’s uttered here doesn’t even take ten times. Just put it on WeChat, Weibo, or the news.

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(When I’m answering the nationality norm, I contemplate something like this from time to time. Fortunately, nobody has freaked out so I haven’t had to use it.)

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